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The Return of the King; Lundqvist back in net as Rangers battle Red Wings

Bobby Bevilacqua

henrik lundqvist side profile good pic 11-25

Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

After missing the last three games with neck spasms, Henrik Lundqvist is ready to take back his spot in the crease as the Rangers (39-22-6) take on the Detroit Red Wings (33-23-11) at the Joe Louis Arena in an Original Six matchup.

Likely joining Lundqvist will be Rick Nash, who has been out of the lineup since January 22nd with a bone bruise. He’s been skating and practicing this week and should be good to go for today’s game. In the likely event that Nash does play, he’ll skate with Eric Staal on the third line, marking the first time they’ll be playing together on the Rangers.

With the good news also comes some bad news. Center Derick Brassard is a question mark for today’s game due to the flu. He’s doubtful, and Kevin Hayes would slide to center if he doesn’t play.

The Rangers are coming off of a 4-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres, with goals from Brassard, Zuccarello and Jesper Fast. However, they played pretty poor down the stretch and to start the game. The Rangers were outshot 36-26 and Raanta bailed out the team. They’ve split the last four games (2-2-0) but have won seven of the last 10 games.

This is the second of three meetings between the Rangers and Red Wings this season, and the first in Detroit. Back on February 21st, Henrik Lundqvist and the Blueshirts outdueled Jimmy Howard and Detroit in a 1-0 overtime win at the Garden, with Kevin Klein scoring the only goal of the game. Hank had 22 saves and Howard made 29 saves, benefitting from a disallowed goal from Kevin Hayes. Three of the last four games have been decided in overtime, and eight of the last nine games have been decided by one goal.

The Red Wings won their last game on Thursday against the Jets, but they had lost their last three games before that, getting outscored 14-6. The Red Wings are in a fight for their playoff lives, holding just a two point lead over the Philadelphia Flyers for the last playoff spot. Every game is crucial and the Red Wings need all the points they could get.

The 19 year-old rookie Dylan Larkin started out his season producing and hasn’t stopped, sitting in second place on the team in scoring with 40 points. He scored a goal on Thursday, giving him 20 for the season. He’s the first Red Wings rookie to reach that mark since current Captain Henrik Zetterberg did so 13 seasons ago. He’s a great skater and an offensive catalyst, and the Rangers will need to keep an eye out for him.

Detroit has another talented young player on their team named Andreas Athanasiou, a rookie taken in the fourth round of the 2012 NHL draft. Athanasiou hasn’t been up in the NHL for that long but his presence has been felt. He’s an incredible skater with blistering speed that can catch you off guard and enough skill to put one past the netminder, scoring three goals in the last five games.

For the Rangers, Rick Nash’s return will be a huge boost to the lineup. Alain Vigneault had him skating on a line with Eric Staal and Viktor Stalberg, creating a big line with speed and skill. Doing so will create matchup problems for opposing teams, because they’d have to figure out how to stop the two 300 goal scorers in Nash and Staal while also stopping the lines centered by Derek Stepan and Derick Brassard/Kevin Hayes. It’s probably be a game or two before Nash is back to his usual self, but pairing him with Staal and Stalberg puts him in a position to succeed.

It looks like Derick Brassard will be unavailable, which gives Kevin Hayes a big opportunity. Hayes has been stuck on the fourth line for the past few games, but he would be centering Chris Kreider and Jesper Fast today. He’s shown some signs of a resurgence before being thrown onto the fourth line, and he’ll get another chance to produce in the top-six today.

The Rangers and the Red Wings will faceoff at the Joe Louis Arena at 2 PM. The game will be broadcasted on MSG Network.

EXPECTED LINES

JT Miller-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Chris Kreider-Kevin Hayes-Jesper Fast

Rick Nash-Eric Staal-Viktor Stalberg

Oscar Lindberg-Dominic Moore-Tanner Glass

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Dan Boyle

Keith Yandle-Kevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

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Posted on March 12, 2016, in Game Previews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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